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When to Use Dele/Dela vs. Seu/Sua

March 30, 2018

Dele vs seu? When forming 3rd person possessives in European Portuguese, how do we decide when to use dele, dela, deles, delas  vs.  seu, sua, seus, suas?

Possessives formed with de are less ambiguous: they agree strictly with the subject, not with the object. In contrast, seu and its derivatives agree with the object, so we are not able to differentiate between the several possible 3rd person subjects without extra context.

In other words, when using dele, etc. you match it to the gender and number of the subject/person who possesses something. When using seu, etc. you match it to the gender and number of the object/thing being possessed.

Dele, dela, deles, delas

  • dele paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio his – When the subject is ele (him).
  • dela paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio her – When the subject is ela (her).
  • deles paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio their – When the subject is eles (them, a group with at least one male).
  • delas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio their – When the subject is elas (them, an all-female group).

Seu, sua, seus, suas

These are also used for the same 3rd person subjects, but the specific form used must match the gender and number of the object/noun being

3rd Person Possessives: De + Pronoun

March 30, 2018

The Ambiguity of Seu, Sua, Seus, and Suas

To review, the Portuguese possessive pronouns/determiners for the third-person forms are the following:

Subject Possessive Pronoun/Determiner English Equivalent
Ele, Ela, Você Seu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Sua paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Seus paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Suas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio His, Her/Hers, Your/Yours(formal)
Eles, Elas Seu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Sua paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Seus paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Suas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Their, Theirs

As you can see, ele paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio he, him, ela paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio she, her, você paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio you(formal), eles paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio they, them(masc.), and elas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio they, them(fem.) all share the same exact possessive determiners! Since the determiners agree with both the number and the gender of the noun that is being possessed (rather than the subject), knowing precisely who we’re talking about is a bit tricky. Let’s see some examples:

Introduction to Possessives

March 30, 2018

Possessive Determiners vs. Possessive Pronouns

In this unit, we’re going to learn about possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, which both serve the function of expressing possession or ownership of something.

In English, these are words like my, your, his, her, their, and our (possessive determiners) and mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, and ours (possessive pronouns).

Possessive determiners precede the noun they are modifying. They tell you to whom a specific item belongs. For example, in the sentence It is my cat, you can tell that the word my is a determiner because it needs to be followed by a noun (cat). “It is my” would not be a complete sentence.

Possessive pronouns replace the noun they are modifying. They convey ownership without telling what exactly is being owned. For example, in the sentence It is mine, you can tell that the word mine is a possessive pronoun because it can stand on its own in place of a noun.

Portuguese Possessives

In Portuguese, possessive pronouns and possessive determiners make use of the same words: meu, teu, seu, nosso, vosso, plus their associated feminine and plural forms. As you will see below, this means that there are multiple possible translations for each possessive word.

To choose the correct possessive determiners and possessive pronouns in Portuguese, you can start by

(1) choosing the form that goes with the person possessing something, and then

(2) modifying that word to match the gender and number of the noun being possessed.

1st and 2nd Person Possessives

March 10, 2018

Mine, Yours, and Ours

Let’s take a closer look at this first group of possessives: meu, teu, nosso and vosso, plus their feminine and plural forms.

Subject Possessive Pronoun/Determiner

(for masculine nouns)

Possessive Pronoun/Determiner

(for feminine nouns)

Eu meu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio my, mine

meus paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio my, mine

minha paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio my, mine

minhas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio my, mine

Tu teu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio your, yours

teus paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio your, yours

tua paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio your, yours

tuas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio your, yours

Nós nosso paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio our, ours

nossos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio our, ours

nossa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio our, ours

nossas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio our, ours

Vós, Vocês vosso paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio your, yours

vossos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio your, yours

vossa paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio your, yours

vossas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio your, yours

Gender and Number Agreement

Remember that the pronoun/determiner has to agree in gender and number with the noun it refers to, rather than the person/subject.

For example, if we’re talking about single objects, such as um jornal paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio a newspaper (a masculine noun) or uma revista paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio magazine (a feminine noun), we’d get:

3rd Person Possessives: Seu and Sua

June 18, 2017

His, Hers, Yours, and Theirs

There are just a few more Portuguese possessives to learn:

Subject Possessive Pronoun/Determiner English Equivalent
Ele, Ela, Você Seu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Sua paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Seus paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Suas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio His, Her/Hers, Your/Yours (formal)
Eles, Elas Seu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Sua paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Seus paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Suas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Their, Theirs

See what happens there? The pronouns/determiners for the third-person singular (+ você) and the third-person plural are all the same!

Gender and Number Agreement

Once again, the pronouns or determiners must agree with the respective noun, not with the subject!

If we’re talking about single objects such as um carro paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio a car (masc. noun) and uma mota paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio a motorcycle (fem. noun), here’s what we get: